During their long and proud sporting history, Mount Albert Grammar School has forged a reputation as one of the strongest rugby, football and netball schools in New Zealand.
Basketball is another code to add to the list if results in 2018 are anything to go by. After nine rounds of the Auckland basketball premierships, MAGS are joint leaders in the boys competition and second in the girls championship.
The senior girls roster at MAGS boasts undeniable pedigree with the niece of NBA star Steven Adams featured in the squad. Sharne Pupuke-Robati is a New Zealand Under-17 representative who is proud and humble about her famous uncle.
“My uncle has been a great influence in basketball and in general, but like any other family member he tells me to put my academics before basketball,” Pupuke-Robati acclaims.
Pupuke-Robati’s combination of focus and athletic ability has helped MAGS to a 7-2 record this season. In their most recent outing, Pupuke-Robati scored a game high 24 points in a 98-61 thrashing of Carmel College. MAGS were fifth at Nationals last year.
“We really want to do well this year as there are four year 13’s in the team. We all bring different strengths to the team which has created a strong culture and balance,” Pupuke-Robati asserts.
MAGS have been building strength for some time. Pupuke-Robati identifies some of her favourite matches from school were at a time when MAGS wasn't regarded as a national contender.
“Two years ago at Nationals we made it to the finals after being put into the pool of death. We had to play off against two of the best teams in New Zealand on day one and beat both Westlake and St Mary's who had won their zones. We were fifth in our zone. It was great to perform as strongly as the underdogs,” Pupuke-Robati reflects.
MAGS have dropped two games this season. Auckland Girls’ Grammar are unbeaten and Westlake Girls’ are a perennial contender.
“Westlake and Grammar are the hardest teams we have faced this season. They are both very strong teams inside and outside of the paint which wasn't easy for us because we aren't the tallest team. We learned a lot from those games and are in better shape having faced strong teams before the regionals,” Pupuke-Robati observes.
Pupuke-Robati will face stiff opposition in July as a member of the New Zealand Under-17 team headed to the FIBA World Championships in Belarus. New Zealand is attending the tournament for the first time.
“Being apart of the New Zealand team is an amazing opportunity. My role will be to step up as a leader for the girls because I was in the team who qualified for the tournament last year. Our goals are to win have fun and wear that fern proud,” Pupuke-RobatI enthuses.
Pupuke-RobatI is accustomed to winning having also been a member of the all-conquering MAGS premier netball team.
“I am a shooter. My best achievement is probably is being apart of the 2015 team which won the National Secondary School title. It was a massive learning experience for me being one of the babies on the bench and learning things from Maia Wilson whose now a Silver Fern,” Pupuke-Robati recalls.
The MAGS boys team were third at the National Secondary Schools championships last year and this week became the first team in 2018 to beat defending National champions Rosmini College.
Mt Albert had only scored 42 points at the three-quarter mark (leading 42-39) but exploded for 34 points in the final period to beat Rosmini 76-63. Ryan Laumatia, having been kept quiet by Rosmini up until that point scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth. Aided by a couple of threes from Sataan Tawera and 8 points from Nate Wilson MAGS closed out the game for a seventh straight win.
Ella Bradley is one of the most accomplished age group basketball players in the country.
The year 12 student at St Peter’s Cambridge was recently named in the tournament team at the National Under-19 championships having been selected in the same squad at the National Secondary Schools Championships in 2017.
A two-time National Secondary Schools gold medalist, Bradley is a member of the New Zealand Under-17 squad, but remarkably isn't the most accomplished player on her team.
Bradley is a pivotal teammate of Tall Fern Charlisse Leger-Walker, perhaps the most dominant age group talent New Zealand has seen since Steven Adams. How do the two girls work together?
“Charlisse has taught me a lot and I hope I have taught her some things too. We just try and feed off each other and when she’s not open, I try to step up,” Bradley answers.
The daughter of two Cambridge accountants, Bradley started playing basketball four years ago and earned Waikato representative selection in her first season.
At St Peter's, Bradley has flourished under the guidance of another Walker. Leanne Walker (mother of Charlisse) is a former Tall Fern and the coach of the St Peter’s First V. A strong culture has been built over the course of many seasons.
“There's a lot of work that goes in off the court as well as on it. We have at least two ‘live in’s a year which don't involve much basketball at all, but are all about bonding. All the girls get on and we love playing together,” Bradley acclaims.
St Peter’s are unbeaten in 2018 having narrowly lost the National final to St Mary’s College, Wellington last October. What do St Peter's have to do to go one step better this year?
“It was a close game that could have gone either way. I don't think we would have done much differently,” Bradley reflects.
“We have three Year 13s and four year 12s this year so I guess we have more experience,” she continued.
Waikato retained their National U19 title recently, comfortably beating Harbour in the final, surging to a 60-35 lead at three-quarter time and prevailing 81-54.Bradley contributed 15 points.
In July, Bradley will experience a new country when she travels to Belarus for the FIBA World Under-17 championships.
New Zealand finished fourth at the FIBA Asian Championship in India last October to clinch a spot at the World Cup. The tournament will be a historic occasion as it is the first FIBA age-group World Cup ever attended by a New Zealand Women’s team.
The tournament will open on 21 July with New Zealand scheduled to play Spain in Minsk on that day.
New Zealand are drawn in Group C and will also play Americas bronze medalists Argentina and European Championship runners-up Hungary in pool play. Bradley insists New Zealand is not present to make up the numbers.
“Our goal is to get out of pool play and see what happens from there. A lot of the girls have played together before and we've got good coaches and players,” Bradley warns.
The Australians are the reigning champions with the USA having won the first three World Cup’s.
In addition to basketball, Bradley is a representative standard goal attack in netball she plays for the Fraser Tech club in Hamilton.
Aon New Zealand U17 Team:
Both the Waitaha Canterbury Men’s and Waikato Women’s teams successfully defended their Aon Under 19 National Basketball Championship titles at North Shore Events Centre on Tuesday.
Charlisse Leger-Walker came close to a triple-double (36 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists) as Waikato ran out comfortable 81-54 winners against Harbour in the women’s final.
Max Darling was at his dominant best (27 points and 12 rebounds) as Waitaha Canterbury Red subdued the Manawatu challenge to win the Men’s Championship in equally convincing fashion 104-77.
Aon Under 19 Men’s National Championship Final
A pair of Max Darling dunks highlighted an 18-7 Waitaha Canterbury Red start against Manawatu.
Matt O’Connell and Jake McKinlay each made a couple of scores for Manawatu but it was still a healthy 34-18 quarter time lead to the Cantabs.
Jacob Collis and Oscar Oswald three’s opened the second quarter scoring but Tom Higgins replied in identical fashion as the Canterbury lead approached twenty points (45-26).
Darling, the Tournament MVP, helped himself to more inside points and although the scoring slowed Kurt Feneon and Max de Geest were still able to make scoring contributions. O’Connell (11 points in the half) made a three as time expired in the half but Manawatu still trailed 53-35 at the interval. Darling led all scorers with 19 points at half-time.
Oswald kick started second half proceedings before de Geest made his fourth three of the game – he finished with 5 triples from10 attempts.
O’Connell’s penetrative play reduced the arrears (64-48) but a pair of transition baskets from Connor McLaughlin pushed the lead back beyond twenty points and necessitated a timeout from Manawatu coach Miles Pearce.
Nic Wenmoth (9 points in the quarter) extended the lead further – Canterbury with one hand on the trophy at three-quarter-time leading 83-56.
The industrious Scott Lachlan and the outstanding O’Connell (26 points) added to the Manawatu points tally but the Canterbury lead was never compromised as they completed a successful title defence.
“We came out pretty tough, coach Mark Dickel had us fired up for the game, we put it on hard from the start and pretty much kept it on all game,” said shooting guard de Geest.
“I got a real good start,” said Darling referring to his early dunks. “We were hitting which we haven’t always done – making decent shots which really helped us out,” he added.
“This squad hasn’t been together for too long but we all like each other and get along well and I think that really shows on the court,” added de Geest.
The pair made a combined fourty-nine points and both were named in the Men’s Tournament Team alongside teammate Tom Higgins.
Waitaha Canterbury Red 104 – M Darling 27, M de Geest 22, N Wenmoth 15, T Higgins 12, C McLaughlin 10
Manawatu 77 – O’Connell 26, O Oswald 12, J McKinlay 10, J Collis 8
Referees – Tayla Ammunson and Duran Whiu
Wellington 92 – A Tai-Jones 22, F McClure 17, M Kapua 13, K Salmon 12
Harbour 83 – S Mennenga 24, T Cowie 22, 9 J Burton 9
U19 Men’s Tournament Team
Joseph Ahie (Wellington)
Max de Geest (Canterbury)
Tom Higgins (Canterbury)
Jake McKinlay (Manawatu)
Sam Mennenga (Harbour)
Oscar Oswald (Manawatu)
Kruz Perrott-Hunt (Harbour)
Anzac Rissetto (Auckland)
Maxim Stephens (Waikato
MVP Max Darling (Canterbury
Aon Under 19 Women’s National Championship Final
A complete all-game performance from Tall Ferns guard Charlisse Leger-Walker highlighted Waikato Women’s resounding 81-54 victory against Harbour. The Commonwealth Games silver medalist finished with 36 points (5/8 3PG), 10 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 steals.
Predictably it was Leger-Walker, the Tournament MVP, that opened the scoring and she moved quickly to ten points as Waikato led 23-16 at quarter time.
Riva Walker-Pitman took Waikato into a double-figure lead (28-18), seven straight points from Tayla Dalton keeping Harbour in the hunt.
Jordyn Maddix converted an And-1 play but Leger-Walker, 20 points (9/15FG) in the half, had the final say before the interval to give Waikato a 36-29 lead.
The games leading scorers Dalton and Leger-Walker exchanged baskets to open the second half before Koha Lewis and Kasee Leef once again took the Waikato lead into double-digits - the advantage 51-35 at the mid point of the third quarter.
A long Ella Bradley two extended the Waikato lead into the twenties forcing a Harbour timeout. The break in play bore little fruit as Waikato powered to a 60-35 three-quarter time lead.
Keeley Tini and Rashaan Smith posted fourth quarter points for Harbour but it was of little consequence as Waikato coasted to victory – their fifth Under 19 title in the past nine years.
Leger-Walker was delighted with another national title.
“It was a satisfying win because Harbour were one of the better teams at the tournament but we got a roll on early – it felt even despite it being a big margin at the end.
“The core group of the team have been together about six years now so we feel comfortable together. It’s always nice coming back together to come to Nationals.
Despite having played at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games just a few weeks ago the youngest ever Tall Fern had little trouble adjusting back to age-group basketball.
“I love coming back to play with the girls of my own age group and getting back to the home environment, it’s always fun to play with this team," she said.
Waikato 81 – C Leger-Walker 36, E Bradley 15, A Williams-McKay 10, K Lewis 6
Harbour 54 – T Dalton 17, R Smith 11, J Maddix 9, K Tini 6
Referees – Rhys Hamilton and Brad Clive
Waitaha Canterbury Red 74 – A Book 18, L Hippolite 16, T Nisbett 16, S Kennedy 10
Taranaki 67 – R Samia 15, I Cook 13, K Jones 11, S Cook 8
U19 Women’s Tournament Team
Ella Bradley (Waikato)
Isabelle Cook (Taranaki)
Tayla Dalton (Harbour)
Lauryn Hippolite (Canterbury)
Mele Latu (Waitakere West)
Jordyn Maddix (Harbour)
Leah Mafua (Wellington)
Sharne Pupuke-Robati (Auckland Counties)
MVP – Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato)
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